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17 February 2016

Singapore Airshow 2016: Milrem & STK Show Armed UGV

Estonian company Milrem has partnered with Singaporean defence company ST Kinetics, part of the ST Engineering Group, to adapt its unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) THeMIS (Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System) into an armed platform.

The Milrem THeMIS at Singapore Airshow 2016, with ST Kinetics' ADDER Remote Weapon Station.

Developed began 15 months and the first vehicle has already been in trials with the Estonian army as an unmanned ‘mule’ in support of troops. it is powered by a diesel generator in one of the track housing sections, and a Li-Ion battery pack with grapheme ultra capacitors inside the other track. This allows eight hour endurance from the generator and five from the battery. It can travel at up to 35km hour, although its current raison d’être is to keep pace with the infantry as a heavy equipment carrier.
Kuldar Väärsi, Milrem’s chief executive said that the working agreement with ST Kinetics allowed the company to begin the expansion of the UGS as a multi mission platform, beginning with an armed version. Initially two types of weapon are being tested: the Adder RWS L40/762 (grenade launcher and co-axial machine gun) and the L50 (.50 calibre gun).

Other potential mission roles it could fulfil would be as an articulated platform, mini UAV launcher, anti-tank/multi-weapon system, communications relay and articulated carrier among others. Väärsi also suggested that it may have a swarming role.

Although current control remains through line-of-sight, developments are moving towards autonomous and follow-the-operator control regimes.

Testing in Singapore with weapons systems onboard have been aimed at proving stability, particularly on sloping terrain.

There will be live shooting tests in Estonia later this year in cooperation with ST Kinetics and production could begin by the end of the year. Two additional units are being made with modifications made through lessons learned and with the objective of making the unit lighter but maintain stability with a secondary load.

Although the Estonian army is happy to test the THeMIS they will not be the first customer as it is not compatible with their current doctrine. Väärsi hopes that its cooperation with ST Kinetics will open potential market opportunities in Asia. Väärsi suggested that a basic unit may cost around €150,000 (unarmed).
Andrew Drwiega